The 430 Books in Marilyn Monroe’s Library: How Many Have You Read?

marilyn reading

If you’re a read­er and user of social media, you’ve like­ly test­ed your life­time read­ing list against the BBC Book Quiz.

Or per­haps you’ve allowed your worth as a read­er to be deter­mined by the num­ber of Pulitzer Prize win­ners you’ve made it through.

The Nation­al Endow­ment for the Arts’ Big Read, any­one?

The 142 Books that Every Stu­dent of Eng­lish Lit­er­a­ture Should Read?

The 50 Best Dystopi­an Nov­els?

Being young is no excuse! Not when the Amer­i­can Library Asso­ci­a­tion pub­lish­es an annu­al list of Out­stand­ing Books for the Col­lege Bound and Life­long Learn­ers.

So… how’d you do? Or should I say how’d you do in com­par­i­son to Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe? The online Mon­roe fan club Ever­last­ing Star used pho­tographs, inter­views, and a Christie’s auc­tion cat­a­logue to come up with a list of more than 400 books in her pos­ses­sion.

Did she read them all? I don’t know. Have you read every sin­gle title on your shelves? (There’s a Japan­ese word for those books. It’s Tsun­doku.)

Fem­i­nist biog­ra­ph­er Oline Eaton has a great rant on her Find­ing Jack­ie blog about the phrase “Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe read­ing,” and the 5,610,000 search engine results it yields when typed into Google:

There is, with­in Monroe’s image, a deeply root­ed assump­tion that she was an idiot, a vul­ner­a­ble and kind and lov­ing and ter­ri­bly sweet idiot, but an idiot nonethe­less. That is the assump­tion in which ‘Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe read­ing’ is entan­gled.

The pow­er of the phrase Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe read­ing’ lies in its appli­ca­tion to Mon­roe and in our assump­tion that she wouldn’t know how.

Would that every­one search­ing that phrase did so in the belief that her pas­sion for the print­ed word rivaled their own. Imag­ine legions of geeks lov­ing her for her brain, bypass­ing Sam Shaw’s icon­ic sub­way grate pho­to in favor of home print­ed pin ups depict­ing her with book in hand.

Com­mem­o­ra­tive postage stamps are nice, but per­haps a more fit­ting trib­ute would be an ALA poster. Like Eaton, when I look at that image of Mar­i­lyn hunched over James Joyce’s Ulysses (or kick­ing back read­ing Walt Whit­man’s Leaves of Grass), I don’t see some­one try­ing to pass her­self off as some­thing she’s not. I see a high school dropout caught in the act of edu­cat­ing her­self. If I saw it taped to a library shelf embla­zoned with the word “READ,” I might just sum­mon the resolve to take a stab at Ulysses myself. (I know how it ends, but that’s about it.)

See below, dear read­ers. Apolo­gies that we’re not set up to keep track of your score for you, but please let us know in the com­ments sec­tion if you’d hearti­ly sec­ond any of Mar­i­lyn’s titles, par­tic­u­lar­ly those that are less­er known or have fad­ed from the pub­lic view.

Mar­i­lyn Monroe’s Read­ing Chal­lenge

(Thanks to Book Tryst for com­pil­ing Ever­last­ing Star’s find­ings)

1) Let’s Make Love by Matthew Andrews (nov­el­iza­tion of the movie)

2) How To Trav­el Incog­ni­to by Lud­wig Bemel­mans

3) To The One I Love Best by Lud­wig Bemel­mans

4) Thurber Coun­try by James Thurber

5) The Fall by Albert Camus

6) Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe by George Car­pozi

7) Camille by Alexan­der Dumas

8) Invis­i­ble Man by Ralph Elli­son

9) The Boston Cook­ing-School Cook Book by Fan­nie Mer­ritt-Farmer

10) The Great Gats­by by F Scott Fitzger­ald

11) From Rus­sia With Love by Ian Flem­ing

12) The Art Of Lov­ing by Erich Fromm

13) The Prophet by Kahlil Gilbran

14) Ulysses by James Joyce

15) Stoned Like A Stat­ue: A Com­plete Sur­vey Of Drink­ing Clich­es, Prim­i­tive, Clas­si­cal & Mod­ern by Howard Kan­del & Don Safran, with an intro by Dean Mar­tin (a man who knew how to drink!)

16) The Last Temp­ta­tion Of Christ by Nikos Kazantza­kis

17) On The Road by Jack Ker­ouac

18) Select­ed Poems by DH Lawrence

19 and 20) Sons And Lovers by DH Lawrence (2 edi­tions)

21) The Portable DH Lawrence

22) Etr­uscan Places (DH Lawrence?)

23) DH Lawrence: A Basic Study Of His Ideas by Mary Free­man

24) The Assis­tant by Bernard Mala­mud

25) The Mag­ic Bar­rel by Bernard Mala­mud

26) Death In Venice & Sev­en Oth­er Sto­ries by Thomas Mann

27) Last Essays by Thomas Mann

28) The Thomas Mann Read­er

29) Hawaii by James Mich­en­er

30) Red Ros­es For Me by Sean O’Casey

31) I Knock At The Door by Sean O’Casey

32) Select­ed Plays by Sean O’Casey

33) The Green Crow by Sean O’Casey

34) Gold­en Boy by Clif­ford Odets

35) Clash By Night by Clif­ford Odets

36) The Coun­try Girl by Clif­ford Odets

37) 6 Plays Of Clif­ford Odets

38) The Cat With 2 Faces by Gor­don Young

39) Long Day’s Jour­ney Into Night by Eugene O’Neill

40) Part Of A Long Sto­ry: Eugene O’Neill As A Young Man In Love by Agnes Boul­ton

41) The Lit­tle Engine That Could by Piper Wat­ty (with child­ish pen­cil scrawls at end, pos­si­bly MM’s)

42) The New Joy Of Cook­ing by Irma S. Rom­bauer & Mar­i­on Rom­bauer-Beck­er (with some cut recipes, page mark­ers, a typed diet sheet and man­u­script shop­ping list, appar­ent­ly in MM’s hand, laid in)

43) Select­ed Plays Of George Bernard Shaw

44) Ellen Ter­ry And Bernard Shaw — A Cor­re­spon­dence

45) Bernard Shaw & Mrs Patrick Camp­bell — Their Cor­re­spon­dence

46) The Short Reigh Of Pip­pin IV by John Stein­beck

47) Once There Was A War by John Stein­beck

48) Set This House On Fire by William Sty­ron

49) Lie Down In Dark­ness (William Sty­ron?)

50) The Roman Spring Of Mrs Stone by Ten­nessee Williams

51) Camino Real by Ten­nessee Williams

52) A Street­car Named Desire by Ten­nessee Williams (with notes by MM)

53) The Flower In Dra­ma And Glam­our by Stark Young (inscribed to MM by Lee Stras­berg, Christ­mas 1955)

Amer­i­can Lit­er­a­ture

54) Ten­der Is The Night by F. Scott Fitzger­ald

55) The Sto­ry Of A Nov­el by Thomas Wolfe

56) Look Home­ward Angel by Thomas Wolfe

57) A Stone, A Leaf, A Door (Thomas Wolfe?)

58) Thomas Wolfe’s Let­ters To His Moth­er, ed. John Skally Ter­ry

59) A Farewell To Arms by Ernest Hem­ing­way

60) The Sun Also Ris­es by Ernest Hem­ing­way

61) Wines­burg, Ohio by Sher­wood Ander­son

62) Sis­ter Car­rie by Theodore Dreis­er

63) Tor­tilla Flat by John Stein­beck

64) The Amer­i­can Claimant & Oth­er Sto­ries & Sketch­es by Mark Twain

65) In Defense of Har­ri­et Shel­ley & Oth­er Essays (Mark Twain?)

66) The Adven­tures Of Huck­le­ber­ry Finn by Mark Twain

67) Rough­ing It (Mark Twain?)

68) The Mag­ic Chris­t­ian by Ter­ry South­ern

69) A Death In The Fam­i­ly by James Agee

70) The War Lover by John Hersey

71) Don’t Call Me By My Right Name & Oth­er Sto­ries by James Pur­dy

72) Mal­colm by James Pur­dy


73) The Portable Irish Read­er (pub. Viking)

74) The Portable Poe — Edgar Allen Poe

75) The Portable Walt Whit­man

76) This Week’s Short Sto­ries (New York, 1953)

77) Bed­side Book Of Famous Short Sto­ries

78) Short Nov­els Of Colette

79) Short Sto­ry Mas­ter­pieces (New York, 1960)

80) The Pas­sion­ate Play­go­er by George Oppen­heimer

81) Fan­cies And Good­nights by John Col­lier

82) Ever­green Review, Vol 2, No. 6

83) The Medal & Oth­er Sto­ries by Lui­gi Piran­del­lo


84) Max Weber (art book — inscribed to MM by ‘Sam’ — Shaw?)

85) Renoir by Albert Ski­ra

86) Max by Gio­van­net­ti Per­i­cle

87) The Fam­i­ly Of Man by Carl Sand­burg

88–90) Hori­zon, A Mag­a­zine Of The Arts (Nov 1959, Jan 1960, Mar 1960.)

91) Jean Dubuf­fet by Daniel Cordier


92) The Sum­ming Up by W. Som­er­set Maugh­am

93) Close To Colette by Mau­rice Goudeket

94) This Demi-Par­adise by Mar­garet Halsey

95) God Pro­tect Me From My Friends by Gavin Maxwell

96) Min­is­ter Of Death: The Adolf Eich­mann Sto­ry by Quentin Reynolds, Ephraim Katz and Zwy Aldou­by

97) Dance To The Piper by Agnes DeMille

98) Good­ness Had Noth­ing To Do With It by Mae West

99) Act One by Moss Hart

Chris­t­ian Sci­ence

100) Sci­ence And Health With Key To The Scrip­tures by Mary Bak­er Eddy

101) Poems, Includ­ing Christ And Christ­mas by Mary Bak­er Eddy

Clas­si­cal Works

102) 2 Plays: Peace And Lysis­tra­ta by Aristo­phanes

103) Of The Nature Of Things by Lucretius

104) The Phi­los­o­phy Of Pla­to

105) Mythol­o­gy by Edith Hamil­ton

106) The­o­ry Of Poet­ry And Fine Art by Aris­to­tle

107) Meta­physics by Aris­to­tle

108–111) Plutarch’s Lives, Vols 3–6 only (of 6) by William and John Lang­horne


112) Bound For Glo­ry by Woody Guthrie

113) The Sup­port Of The Mys­ter­ies by Paul Bres­low

114) Paris Blues by Harold Flen­der

115) The Shook-Up Gen­er­a­tion by Har­ri­son E. Sal­is­bury

For­eign-Lan­guage Texts And Trans­la­tions

116) An Mands Ansigt by Arthur Miller

117) Inde­pen­dent Peo­ple by Hall­dor Lax­ness

118) Mujer by Lina Rolan (inscribed to MM by author)

119) The Hava­mal, ed. D.E. Mar­tin Clarke

120) Yuan Mei: 18th Cen­tu­ry Chi­nese Poet by Arthur Waley

121) Almanach: Das 73 Jahr by S. Fis­ch­er Ver­lag

French Lit­er­a­ture

122) Madame Bovary by Gus­tave Flaubert

123) The Works Of Rabelais

124) The Guer­mantes Way by Mar­cel Proust

125) Cities Of The Plain by Mar­cel Proust

126) With­in A Bud­ding Grove by Mar­cel Proust

127) The Sweet Cheat Gone by Mar­cel Proust

128) The Cap­tive by Mar­cel Proust

129) Nana by Emile Zola

130) Plays by Moliere


131) The Life And Work of Sig­mund Freud by Ernest Jones

132) Let­ters Of Sig­mund Freud, ed. Ernest L. Freud

133) Glo­ry Reflect­ed by Mar­tin Freud

134) Moses And Monothe­ism by Sig­mund Freud

135) Con­di­tioned Reflex Ther­a­py by Andrew Salter

Gar­den­ing & Pets

136–137) The Wise Gar­den Ency­clo­pe­dia, ed. E.L.D. Sey­mour (2 edi­tions)

138) Land­scap­ing Your Own Home by Alice Dus­tan

139) Out­post Nurs­eries — pub­lic­i­ty brochure

140) The For­est And The Sea by Marston Bates

141) Pet Tur­tles by Julien Bron­son

142) A Book About Bees by Edwin Way Teale

143) Cod­fish, Cats & Civil­i­sa­tion by Gary Web­ster


144) How To Do It, Or, The Art Of Live­ly Enter­tain­ing by Elsa Maxwell

145) Wake Up, Stu­pid by Mark Har­ris

146) Mer­ry Christ­mas, Hap­py New Year by Phyl­lis McGin­ley

147) The Hero Mak­er by Akbar Del Piom­bo & Nor­man Rub­ing­ton

148) How To Talk At Gin by Ernie Kovacs

149) VIP Toss­es A Par­ty, by Vir­gil Partch

150) Who Blowed Up The House & Oth­er Ozark Folk Tales, ed. Ran­dolph Vance

151) Snobs by Rus­sell Lynes

Judaica (MM offi­cial­ly con­vert­ed to Judaism upon her mar­riage to Miller).

152) The Form of Dai­ly Prayers

153) Sephath Emeth (Speech Of Truth): Order Of Prayers For The Wholes Year In Jew­ish and Eng­lish

154) The Holy Scrip­tures Accord­ing To The Masoret­ic Text (inscribed to MM by Paula Stras­berg, July 1, 1956)


155) The Law by Roger Vail­land

156) The Build­ing by Peter Mar­tin

157) The Mer­maids by Boros

158) They Came To Cor­du­ra by Glen­don Swarthout

159) The 7th Cross by Anna Seghers

160) A Euro­pean Edu­ca­tion by Romain Gary

161) Strike For A King­dom by Men­na Gal­lie

162) The Slide Area by Gavin Lam­bert

163) The Woman Who Was Poor by Leon Bloy

164) Green Man­sions by W.H. Hud­son

165) The Con­tenders by John Wain

166) The Best Of All Worlds, Or, What Voltaire Nev­er Knew by Hans Jor­gen Lem­bourn (is this the same guy who lat­er wrote ’40 Days With Mar­i­lyn’?)

167) The Sto­ry Of Esther Costel­lo by Nicholas Montsar­rat

168) Oh Care­less Love by Mau­rice Zolo­tow (MM biog­ra­ph­er)

169) Add A Dash Of Pity by Peter Usti­nov

170) An Amer­i­can Tragedy by Theodore Dreis­er (filmed as A Place In The Sun — MM admired Eliz­a­beth Tay­lor’s per­for­mance)

171) The Mark Of The War­rior by Paul Scott

172) The Danc­ing Bear by Edzard Schaper

173) Mir­a­cle In The Rain by Ben Hecht (co-author of MM’s auto­bi­og­ra­phy)

174) The Guide by R.K. Narayan

175) Blow Up A Storm by Gar­son Kanin (lat­er wrote screen­play ‘Movi­o­la’, fea­turn­ing an MM-based char­ac­ter)

176) Jonathan by Rus­sell O’Neill

177) Fowlers End by Ger­ald Kersh

178) Hur­ri­cane Sea­son by Ralph Win­nett

179) The un-Amer­i­cans by Alvah Bessie (lat­er wrote The Sym­bol, a nov­el loose­ly based on MM’s life)

180) The Dev­il’s Advo­cate by Mor­ris L. West

181) On Such A Night by Antho­ny Quayle

182) Say You Nev­er Saw Me by Arthur Nes­bitt

183) All The Naked Heroes by Alan Kapen­er

184) Jere­my Todd by Hamil­ton Maule

185) Miss Amer­i­ca by Daniel Stren

186) Fever In The Blood by William Pear­son

187) Spar­ta­cus by Howard Fast

188) Venet­ian Red by L.M. Pasinet­ti

189) A Cup Of Tea For Mr Thorgill by Storm Jame­son

190) Six O’Clock Casu­al by Hen­ry W. Cune

191) Mis­chief by Char­lotte Arm­strong (the movie ‘Don’t Both­er To Knock’ was based on this nov­el)

192) The Gingko Tree by Shee­lagh Burns

193) The Moun­tain Road by Theodore H. White

194) Three Cir­cles Of Light by Pietro Di Dona­to

195) The Day The Mon­ey Stopped by Bren­dan Gill

196) The Car­pet­bag­gers by Harold Rob­bins (Hol­ly­wood-set best­seller, fea­tur­ing a Jean Har­low-based char­ac­ter, Rina Mar­lowe. Mar­i­lyn’s sec­re­tary, Marg­erie Sten­gel, recalls that Mar­i­lyn was read­ing a Rob­bins nov­el in her New York apart­ment in 1961.)

197–198) Jus­tine by Lawrence Dur­rell (2 edi­tions, pos­si­bly read dur­ing film­ing of The Mis­fits)

199) Balt­haz­ar by Lawrence Dur­rell

200) Brighton Rock by Gra­ham Greene

201) The Secret Agent by Joseph Con­rad

202) The Unnam­able by Samuel Beck­ett

203) Por­trait Of The Artist As A Young Dog by Dylan Thomas (Mar­i­lyn met Thomas in Shel­ley Win­ters’ apart­ment cir­ca 1951)

204) Hear Us O Lord From Heav­en Thy Dwelling Place, by Mal­colm Lowry

Mod­ern Library

205) The Sound And The Fury/As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkn­er

206) God’s Lit­tle Acre by Ersk­ine Cald­well

207) Anna Christie/The Emper­or Jones/The Hairy Ape by Eugene O’Neill (Mar­i­lyn played Anna in a scene per­formed at the Actor’s Stu­dio in 1956)

208) The Phi­los­o­phy Of Schopen­hauer by Irwin Edman

209) The Phi­los­o­phy Of Spin­oza by Joseph Rat­ner

210) The Dublin­ers by James Joyce

211) Select­ed Poems by Emi­ly Dick­in­son

212) The Col­lect­ed Short Sto­ries by Dorothy Park­er (Friend of Mar­i­lyn’s, lived near­by her Dohe­ny Dri­ve apart­ment in 1961)

213) Select­ed Works by Alexan­der Pope

214) The Red And The Black by Stend­hal

215) The Life Of Michelan­ge­lo by John Adding­ton

216) Of Human Bondage by W. Som­er­set Maugh­am (Nia­gara direc­tor Hen­ry Hath­away want­ed to film this with MM and James Dean. It was even­tu­al­ly made with Kim Novak and Lau­rence Har­vey.)

217) Three Famous French Romances (W. Som­er­set Maugh­am?)

218) Napoleon by Emil Lud­wig

219) Madame Bovary by Gus­tave Flaubert (a sec­ond copy?)

220) The Poems And Fairy-Tales by Oscar Wilde

221) Alice’s Adven­tures In Wonderland/Through The Look­ing Glass/The Hunt­ing Of The Snark, by Lewis Car­roll

222) A High Wind In Jamaica by Richard Hugh­es

223) An Anthol­o­gy Of Amer­i­can Negro Lit­er­a­ture, ed. Sylvestre C. Watkins


224) Beethoven: His Spir­i­tu­al Devel­op­ment by J.W.N. Sul­li­van

225) Music For The Mil­lions by David Ewen

226) Schu­bert by Ralph Bates

227) Men Of Music by Wal­lace Brock­away and Her­bert Wein­stock


228) The Pot­ting Shed by Gra­ham Greene

229) Pol­i­tics In The Amer­i­can Dra­ma by Cas­par Nannes

230) Sons Of Men by Her­schel Stein­hardt

231) Born Yes­ter­day by Gar­son Kanin (MM audi­tioned for the movie, but Judy Hol­l­i­day got the part)

232) Unti­tled & Oth­er Radio Drams by Nor­man Cor­win

233) Thir­teen By Cor­win, by Nor­man Cor­win

234) More By Cor­win, by Nor­man Cor­win

235) Long Day’s Jour­ney Into Night by Eugene O’Neill (a sec­ond copy)

236) Best Amer­i­can Plays: Third Series, 1945–1951

237) The­atre ’52 by John Chap­man

238) 16 Famous Euro­pean Plays, by Ben­nett Cerf and Van H. Cart­mell

239) The Com­plete Plays Of Hen­ry James

240) 20 Best Plays Of The Mod­ern Amer­i­can The­atre, by John Glass­ner

241) Eliz­a­bethan Plays by Hazel­ton Spencer

242) Crit­ics’ Choice by Jack Gaver

243) Mod­ern Amer­i­can Dra­mas by Har­lan Hatch­er

244) The Album Of The Cam­bridge Gar­rick Club

Euro­pean Poet­ry

245) A Shrop­shire Lad by A.E. House­man

246) The Poet­ry & Prose Of Hein­rich Heine by Fred­erich Ewen

247) The Poet­i­cal works Of John Mil­ton, by H.C. Beech­ing

248) The Poet­i­cal Works Of Robert Brown­ing (H.C. Beech­ing?)

249) Wordsworth by Richard Wilbur

250) The Poet­i­cal Works Of Shel­ley (Richard Wilbur?)

251) The Portable Blake, by William Blake

252) William Shake­speare: Son­nets, ed. Mary Jane Gor­ton

253) Poems Of Robert Burns, ed. Hen­ry Meik­le & William Beat­tie

254) The Pen­guin Book Of Eng­lish Verse, ed. John Hay­ward

255) Aragon: Poet Of The French Resis­tance, by Han­nah Joseph­son & Mal­colm Cow­ley

256) Star Crossed by Mar­garet Tilden

Amer­i­can Poet­ry

257 and 258) Col­lect­ed Son­nets by Edna St Vin­cent Mil­lay (2 edi­tions)

259) Robert Frost’s Poems by Louis Unter­mey­er (Mar­i­lyn befriend­ed Unter­mey­er dur­ing her mar­riage to Arthur)

260) Poe: Com­plete Poems by Richard Wilbur (a 2nd copy?)

261) The Life And Times Of Archy And Mehita­bel by Don Mar­quis

262) The Pock­et­book Of Mod­ern Verse by Oscar Williams

263) Poems by John Tagli­abue

264) Select­ed Poems by Rafael Alber­ti

265) Select­ed Poet­ry by Robin­son Jef­fers

266) The Amer­i­can Puri­tans: Their Prose & Poet­ry, by Per­ry Miller

267) Select­ed Poems by Rain­er Maria Rilke

268) Poet In New York by Fed­eri­co Gar­cia Lor­ca

269) The Vapor Trail by Ivan Lawrence Beck­er (inscribed to Arthur by the author, there is also a note to MM)

270) Love Poems & Love Let­ters For All The Year

271) 100 Mod­ern Poems, ed. Selden Rod­man

272) The Swee­ni­ad, by Myra But­tle

273) Poet­ry: A Mag­a­zine Of Verse, Vol.70, no. 6


274) The Wall Between by Anne Braden

275) The Roots Of Amer­i­can Com­mu­nism by Theodore Drap­er

276) A View Of The Nation — An Anthol­o­gy : 1955–1959, ed. Hen­ry Chris­t­ian

277) A Social­ist’s Faith by Nor­man Thomas

278–279) Reded­i­ca­tion To Free­dom by Ben­jamin Ginzburg (2 copies)

280) The Igno­rant Armies by E.M. Hal­l­i­day

281) Com­mon­wealth Vs Sac­co & Vanzetti, by Robert P. Weeks

282) Jour­ney To The Begin­ning by Edgar Snow

283) Das Kap­i­tal by Karl Marx

284) Lidice by Eleanor Wheel­er

285) The Study Of His­to­ry by Arnold Toyn­bee

286) Amer­i­ca The Invin­ci­ble by Emmet John Hugh­es

287) The Unfin­ished Coun­try by Max Lern­er

288) Red Mirage by John O’Kear­ney

289) Back­ground & Fore­ground — The New York Times Mag­a­zine: An Anthol­o­gy, ed. Lester Markel (a friend of MM)

290) The Fail­ure Of Suc­cess by Esther Mil­ner

291) A Piece Of My Mind by Edmund Wil­son

292) The Truth About The Munich Cri­sis by Vis­count Maugh­am

293) The Alien­ation Of Mod­ern Man by Fritz Pap­pen­heim

294) A Train Of Pow­der by Rebec­ca West

295) Report From Paler­mo by Dani­lo Dol­ci

296) The Dev­il In Mass­a­chu­setts by Mar­i­on Starkey

297) Amer­i­can Rights: The Con­sti­tu­tion In Action, by Wal­ter Gell­horn

298) Night by Fran­cis Polli­ni

299) The Right Of The Peo­ple by William Dou­glas

300) The Jury Is Still Out by Irwin David­son and Richard Gehman

301) First Degree by William Kun­stler

302) Democ­ra­cy In Amer­i­ca by Alex­is De Toc­queville

303) World Under­world by Andrew Var­na


304) Cat­e­chism For Young Chil­dren (1936, so may be from Nor­ma Jeane’s child­hood)

305) Prayer Changes Things (1952, inscribed to MM — per­haps from Jane Rus­sell?)

306) The Prophet by Kahlil Bibran (a sec­ond copy?)

307) The Mag­ic Word L.I.D.G.T.T.F.T.A.T.I.M. by Robert Col­lier

308) The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran (a third copy?)

309) His Broth­er’s Keep­er by Mil­ton Gross (3‑page extract from Read­ers’ Digest, Dec 1961)

310) Christlich­es ergiss­mein­nicht by K. Ehmann

311) And It Was Told Of A Cer­tain Pot­ter by Wal­ter C. Lany­on (1922, so may be from child­hood. Sev­er­al news­pa­per poems and prayers tipped in.)

312) Bahai Prayers (inscribed to MM, ‘Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe May­be­line. A gift for my dar­ling May­be­line, with all my love, Char­lzetta’ — dat­ed 1961.)


313) Man Against Him­self by Karl A. Men­ninger

314) The Tow­er And The Abyss by Erich Kahler

315) Some­thing To Live By, by Dorothea S. Kop­plin

316) Man’s Supreme Inher­i­tance by Alexan­der F. Matthias

317) The Mir­a­cles Of Your Mind by Joseph Mur­phy

318) The Wis­dom Of The Sands by Antoine de Saint-Exu­pery

319) A Prison, A Par­adise by Loran Hurn­scot

320) The Mag­ic Of Believ­ing by Claude M. Bris­tol

321) Peace Of Mind by Joshua Loth Lieb­man

322) The Use Of The Self by Alexan­der F. Matthias

323) The Pow­er With­in You by Claude M. Bris­tol

324) The Call Girl by Harold Green­wald

325) Trou­bled Women by Lucy Free­man (who lat­er wrote ‘Why Nor­ma Jean Killed Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe’)

326) Relax And Live by Joseph A. Kennedy

327) For­ev­er Young, For­ev­er Healthy by Indra Devi

328) The Open Self by Charles Mor­ris

329) Hyp­no­tism Today by Leslie Lecron & Jean Bor­deaux

330) The Masks Of God: Prim­i­tive Mythol­o­gy, by Joseph Camp­bell

331) Some Char­ac­ter­is­tics Of Today by Rudolph Stein­er


332) Baby & Child Care by Dr Ben­jamin Spock (pub. 1958)

333) Flower Arrang­ing For Fun by Hazel Peck­in­paugh Dun­lop

334) Hugo’s Pock­et Dic­tio­nary: French-Eng­lish And Eng­lish-French

335) Spo­ken French For Trav­ellers And Tourists, by Charles Kany & Math­urin Don­do

336) Roget’s Pock­et The­saurus, by C.O. Maw­son & K.A. Whit­ing


337) What Is A Jew? by Mor­ris Kertzer

338) A Par­ti­san Guide To The Jew­ish Prob­lem, by Mil­ton Stein­berg

339) The Tales Of Rab­bi Nach­man, by Mar­tin Buber

340) The Sav­iours Of God: Spir­i­tu­al Exer­cis­es, by Nikos Kazantza­kis

341) The Prophet by Kahlil Gilbran (4th copy?)

342) The Dead Sea Scrolls by Mil­lar Bur­rows

343) The Secret Books Of The Egypt­ian Gnos­tics, by Jean Doresse

344) Jesus by Kahlil Gilbran

345) Mem­o­ries Of A Catholic Girl­hood, by Mary McCarthy

346) Why I Am Not A Chris­t­ian, by Bertrand Rus­sell

Russ­ian Lit­er­a­ture

347) Redemp­tion & Oth­er Plays by Leo Tol­stoy

348) The Viking Library Portable Anton Chekhov

349) The House Of The Dead, by Fyo­dor Dos­to­evsky

350) Crime And Pun­ish­ment by Fyo­dor Dos­to­evsky

351) Best Russ­ian Sto­ries: An Anthol­o­gy, ed. Thomas Seltzer

352) The Plays Of Anton Chekhov

353) Smoke by Ivan Tur­genev

354) The Poems, Prose & Plays Of Alexan­der Pushkin

355) The Broth­ers Kara­ma­zov by Fyo­dor Dos­to­evsky (not in the Christies’ cat­a­logue. But friends of MM recall her read­ing it as a young actress, and she had hopes of play­ing Grushen­ka. Her own remarks in inter­views make it clear that she had read the nov­el.)


356) Our Knowl­edge Of The Exter­nal World, by Bertrand Rus­sell

357) Com­mon Sense And Nuclear War­fare, by Bertrand Rus­sell

358) Out Of My Lat­er Years by Albert Ein­stein

359) Men And Atoms by William Lau­rence

360) Man Alive by Daniel Col­in Munro (inscribed to Ren­na Camp­bell from Lor­raine?)

361) Doc­tor Pyg­malion by Maxwell Maltz

362) Panora­ma: A New Review, ed. R.F. Tan­nen­baum

363) Every­man’s Search by Rebec­ca Beard

364) Of Stars And Men by Har­low Shap­ley

365) From Hiroshi­ma To The Moon, by Daniel Lang

366) The Open Mind by J. Robert Oppen­heimer

367) Sex­u­al Impo­tence In The Male, by Leonard Paul Wer­shub

Scripts And Read­ings

368) Medea by Jef­fers Robin­son

369) Antigone by Jean Anouilh

370) Bell, Book And Can­dle by John Van Druten

371) The Women by Clare Boothe

372) Jean Of Lor­raine by Maxwell Ander­son


373) The Sawb­wa And His Sec­re­tary by C.Y. Lee

374) The Twain Shall Meet by Christo­pher Rand

375) King­dom Of The Rocks by Con­sue­lo De Saint-Exu­pery

376) The Heart Of India by Alexan­der Camp­bell

377) Man-Eaters Of India by Jim Cor­bett

378) Jun­gle Lore by Jim Cor­bett

379) My India by Jim Cor­bett

380) A Time In Rome by Eliz­a­beth Bowen

381) Lon­don by Jacques Bous­sard

382) New York State Vaca­tion­lands

383) Russ­ian Jour­ney by William O. Dou­glas

384) The Gold­en Bough by James G. Fraz­er

Women Authors

385) The Portable Dorothy Park­er

386) My Anto­nia by Willa Cather

387) Lucy Gay­heart by Willa Cather

388) The Bal­lad Of The Sad Cafe by Car­son McCullers (befriend­ed Mar­i­lyn when she first moved to New York)

389) The Short Nov­els Of Colette (A sec­ond copy?)

390) The Lit­tle Dis­tur­bances Of Man by Grace Paley

Here are a few oth­er books which weren’t includ­ed, but Mon­roe was report­ed either to have read or owned them. Most on the list are cit­ed in the Unabridged Mar­i­lyn.

391) The Auto­bi­og­ra­phy Of Lin­coln Stef­fens (read dur­ing The Fire­ball)

392–403) Carl Sand­burg’s 12-vol­ume biog­ra­phy of Abra­ham Lin­coln

404) The Lit­tle Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exu­pery (Mar­i­lyn gave a copy to Joe after their wed­ding)

405) Poems Of W.B. Yeats (Mar­i­lyn read his poems aloud at Nor­man Ros­ten’s house)

406) Mr Roberts by Joyce Cary

407) The Think­ing Body by Mabel Elsworth Todd

408) The Actor Pre­pares by Kon­stan­tin Stanislavsky

409) The Bible

410) The Biog­ra­phy Of Eleano­ra Duse, by William Weaver

411) De Humani Cor­poris Fab­ri­ca (Study Of Human Bone Struc­ture) by Andreas Vesal­ius

412) Essays by Ralph Wal­do Emer­son

413) Gertrude Lawrence As Mrs A, by Richard Aldrich

414) Good­night Sweet Prince by Gene Fowler

415) Greek Mythol­o­gy by Edith Hamil­ton

416) How Stanislavsky Directs by Mikhail Gor­chakov (post­ed ear­li­er by Feli­cia)

417) I Mar­ried Adven­ture by Olso John­son

418) The Impor­tance Of Liv­ing by Lin Yutang

419) Let­ters To A Young Poet by Rain­er Maria Rilke (read dur­ing All About Eve)

420) Psy­chol­o­gy Of Every­day Life by Sig­mund Freud

421) The Rains Came by Louis Broom­field

422) The Rights Of Man by Thomas Paine (read dur­ing some Like It Hot)

423) Swan­n’s Way by Mar­cel Proust

424) To The Actor by Michael Chekhov (Mar­i­lyn’s act­ing teacher from 1950–1955)

425) Cap­tain New­man, M.D. (Nov­el based on Dr Ralph Greenson’s as an army doc­tor in Korea. Mar­i­lyn was said to be read­ing this on the week of her death.A film based on the book was released in 1963.)

426) Songs For Patri­cia by Nor­man Ros­ten (post­ed by Paju)

427) A Lost Lady by Willa Cather (Mar­i­lyn hoped to film this with her pro­duc­tion com­pa­ny. But an ear­li­er adap­ta­tion was so dis­ap­point­ing to the author, that she with­drew the film rights.)

428) Lust For Life by Irv­ing Stone

429) The Deer Park by Nor­man Mail­er (Hol­ly­wood-based nov­el. Mar­i­lyn com­ment­ed on the book, ‘He’s too impressed by pow­er, in my opin­ion.’ Mail­er tried unsuc­cess­ful­ly to meet Mar­i­lyn, and after her death wrote sev­er­al books on her.)

430) The Rebel by Albert Camus

via Book­tryst

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author whose Zinester’s Guide to NYC inspired a pret­ty great song of its own. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe Reads Joyce’s Ulysses at the Play­ground (1955)

Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe Reads Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass (1952)

Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe Explains Rel­a­tiv­i­ty to Albert Ein­stein (in a Nico­las Roeg Movie)

by | Permalink | Comments (28) |

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Comments (28)
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  • andrekibbe says:

    “Fem­i­nist biog­ra­ph­er Oline Eaton has a great rant on her Find­ing Jack­ie blog about the phrase “Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe read­ing,” and the 5,610,000 search engine results it yields when typed into Google”

    Methinks Eaton doth protest too much. The phrase “James Joyce read­ing” yields 59,100,100 Google search results. Are we to con­clude that Joyce was an even greater idiot or nov­el­ty? Would she have mar­ried Arthur Miller if she had no lit­er­ary inter­ests?

    Pic­tures of women read­ing are inher­ent­ly attrac­tive to lit­er­ate men. That’s the sim­pler expla­na­tion.

    • Guest says:

      Joyce Cary was a man, and there­fore his book Mr Roberts should not be list­ed under Women Authors.

      Sor­ry this was not intend­ed as a reply to andrek­ibbe but as a sep­a­rate com­ment in its own right.

  • gary says:

    Joyce Cary was a man, and there­fore his book Mr Roberts should not be list­ed under Women Authors. An easy mis­take to make though.

  • HM8432 says:

    I saw an arti­cle once that dis­cussed how Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe and Carl Sand­burg were close friends, to the point of it being a father-daugh­ter type rela­tion­ship. If that’s true, it’s curi­ous she only had his Lin­coln biog­ra­phy, and not any of his poet­ry col­lec­tions.

  • Balint Kornel says:

    The Auto­bi­og­ra­phy of Lin­coln Stef­fens has been a favorite of mine, and would be up for props from me.

  • crazygemini12 says:

    Wow. This list is the oppo­site of diverse. I’d rather broad­en my hori­zons, thanks.

  • Oliver says:

    Excel­lent Library — I’d be inter­est­ed in pur­chas­ing her two copies of Madame bovary

  • Eric Bourland says:

    »>74) The Portable Poe – Edgar Allen Poe


  • janflora says:

    I was a huge Mar­i­lyn fan when I was a teen. I remem­ber try­ing to read Anna Karen­i­na then because she was such a fan of it (but I did not get far at age 13:) She want­ed to play that role, but was basi­cal­ly told it was over her head. Which was wrong, because she was also a great dra­mat­ic actress, though we remem­ber her more for her come­dies. Act­ing involves intel­li­gence, and frankly, Nor­ma Jean Mortensen’s great­est per­for­mance was the role of Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe. She tricked every­one.

  • goldmourn says:

    I think Mar­i­lyn prob­a­bly read a good num­ber of the books she owned, in like­li­hood, giv­en how often she was seen to be read­ing, to be pho­tographed read­ing, to have a book in her hands in down­time. She was­n’t doing it for her image — she was quite intel­li­gent from what I’ve read of her. I love the pho­tographs of her read­ing.

  • therantguy says:

    That’s hor­ri­ble pho­to­shop job on the book she’s hold­ing.

  • sara says:

    Joyce Cary was a man, “” and there­fore his book Mr Roberts should not be list­ed under Women Authors. An easy mis­take to make though.

  • John Barnwell says:

    “Some years before her death (in Dec. ’64), Dame Edith (Sitwell) had spent a win­ter in Hol­ly­wood. A meet­ing between the poet and Mar­i­lyn was arranged by a month­ly mag­a­zine. It was thought their ‘oppo­site’ per­son­al­i­ties would throw off some jour­nal­is­tic sparks. No one could have fore­seen that they would become imme­di­ate friends, nor could any­one have known that their deaths would be marked in an almost iden­ti­cal way — while their leg­ends were grow­ing in their life­times, they had been tak­en seri­ous­ly by too few, too late.

    “By the time she met Dame Edith, Mar­i­lyn had come a long way. If she had not been mov­ing in an atmos­phere — much of it self-cre­at­ed — so removed from her begin­ning, they might have had noth­ing in com­mon. But when the intro­duc­tions were over, these new and unlike­ly friends were left alone and began talk­ing of Rudolf Stein­er, whose per­son­al his­to­ry, “The Course of My Life,” Mar­i­lyn was read­ing at the time. Dame Edith was to remark lat­er on Marilyn’s ‘extreme intel­li­gence.’”

    in: “Nor­ma Jean: the Life of Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe,” by Fred Lawrence Guiles, McGraw-Hill Book Com­pa­ny: New York, 1969 (pgs. 331–332)

  • kariann says:

    Mar­i­lyn was report­ed­ly a vora­cious read­er. Due to her high IQ, she did­n’t always fin­ish books after she had sur­mised its mean­ing because she could pre­dict its con­clu­sion.

  • Jim Coates says:

    316) Man’s Supreme Inher­i­tance by F. Matthias Alexan­der NOT “Alexan­der F. Matthias.”

    322) The Use Of The Self by F. Matthias Alexan­der NOT “Alexan­der F. Matthias.”

  • Linda Miller says:

    The list is, not sur­pris­ing­ly, incom­plete. It con­tains only a few of the vol­umes of Mar­cel Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time”, and, notably, not the first (“Swann in Love”). I am so hap­py for her that she read this most per­fect work of art, as its author would be. Many years ago when I was look­ing for inspi­ra­tion for some­thing to read I decid­ed to go through the titles on MM’s book­shelves. Thanks MM. And thank you for adding to the list. xo

  • Taquoya Baker says:

    I’ve read over 9,867 books since 1995 and still count­ing

  • Dennis Cass says:

    I’m aston­ished that none of Tru­man Capote’s col­lect­ed short sto­ries are among her books.

  • Anna Halfpenny says:

    Charmed to see ’The Life and Times of Archie and Mehita­bel’ by Don Mar­quis in the list. “Tou­jours gai!”

  • David Wulf says:

    Sev­er­al sug­gest­ed that #406, Joyce Cary’s “Mis­ter Roberts,” should not be list­ed under women authors; it does­n’t appear to me that is is so list­ed. More impor­tant­ly, Cary nev­er wrote a “Mis­ter Roberts.” The cor­rect item might be Cary’s “Mis­ter John­son” or Thomas Heggen’s “Mis­ter Roberts” or this may be a mash-up of the two.

    #421, “The Rains Came,” is by Louis Brom­field, not Broom­field.

    #185, “Miss Amer­i­ca,” is by Daniel Stern, not Stren.

  • Nova says:

    Swann in Love is just a sec­tion of Swan­n’s Way, which she does have. The only one I noticed miss­ing was Time Regained, the final posthu­mous vol­ume.

  • Chauncey says:

    I’ve read that Arthur Miller taught Ms. Mon­roe the alpha­bet (her ABCs if you like) and a very basic abil­i­ty to read (at a third-grade lev­el). She could not have pos­si­bly read, let alone under­stood, any of the books on that list. It was strict­ly for show. Why the world can’t accept some­one for what she is (in this case a sim­ple­ton) is beyond me. Just enjoy her as a fine come­di­enne in movies who was nev­er in on the joke.

  • Rafarl says:

    En lo per­son­al me parece que La actriz Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe era muy inteligente y bel­la , cul­ta .

    Real­mente era inteligente.

  • Donna says:

    Dis­ap­point­ed that Dos Pas­sos’ Amer­i­ca nov­els failed to make the cut.

  • Patrick Danahy says:

    384) The Gold­en Bough by James G. Fraz­er is mis­placed under Trav­el.

  • Patrick Danahy says:

    384) The Gold­en Bough by James G. Fraz­er is mis­placed under Trav­el. It would be more at home with Joseph Camp­bell or the philoso­phers.

  • mal says:

    Cor­rect me if I’m wrong Chauncey, but I believe most movies have this thing they call “a script”. If she could­n’t read, then how did she learn her lines? Tele­path­ic com­mu­ni­ca­tion maybe?

  • Helen says:

    Not sure if you’re a troll or just dumb. She grad­u­at­ed junior high, attend­ed high school until she got mar­ried and lat­er took uni­ver­si­ty class­es. She was con­stant­ly writ­ing let­ters to her friends and lovers, and many of those let­ters have sur­vived to this day — there is even a book com­posed of her let­ters and hand-writ­ten notes. And of course she had to know how to read in order to learn her scripts. So yes, she def­i­nite­ly knew how to read before ever meet­ing Arthur.

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